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Just dump Choke-lin already
13 years ago  ::  Jan 09, 2007 - 4:52PM #1
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Coughlin still Giant question

Goodbyes fall short of farewell

Tom Coughlin stands by his coaches but shakeup, minor or major, will change Big Blue picture.
Eli Manning makes his call ...
... with Plaxico Burress giving his final word before taking off.
There were no long goodbyes from Tom Coughlin yesterday. And though his players were busy cleaning out their lockers, the coach's office remained intact.

In fact, things were so normal around Giants Stadium that Coughlin's final speech to his team was a short one. And it ended with these hopeful words:

"I'll see you in March."

Of course, it remains to be seen whether Coughlin will see any of his players again at all, after a disappointing 8-8 season ended Sunday with a 23-20 loss to the Eagles in the first round of the playoffs. Several organizational sources said it appeared that co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch were leaning toward bringing their embattled coach back for one more year, but no official announcement was made.

Whatever their decision, it was likely discussed at length yesterday afternoon when Coughlin met with Mara and treasurer Jonathan Tisch (Steve Tisch was not at the stadium). Through team spokesmen, the two Giants executives both declined comment, and Steve Tisch did not return calls.

The fact that there was no announcement could be because there are still things to discuss as the owners review a chaotic season. Even if they did decide to bring Coughlin back for the final year of his four-year, $12 million contract, they had to figure out how to do it.

Their options included a one-year contract extension - the route they took when they were undecided about Jim Fassel in 2000 - allowing Coughlin to coach out the final year of his contract, or making his return conditional on him making changes in his coaching staff.

Coughlin refused to speak to the media yesterday, and wouldn't discuss his status when contacted at home last night by the Daily News. A team official said an announcement on Coughlin's fate likely would come by tomorrow, though it could come today.

"It's all very unsettling," said safety Gibril Wilson. "There's uncertainty about the whole situation. That's not a good thing."

Coughlin's assistants were also unclear about their situation after a staff meeting scheduled for yesterday was postponed until this morning. They were well aware that Coughlin might be forced to make some changes. One player said the first move could come from special teams coach Mike Sweatman, whom the player expected to retire.

Whatever the future holds, Coughlin seemed to go to great lengths to make the day, in the words of several players, "business as usual." He gathered his team in the morning, let retiring GM Ernie Accorsi say a few words, then talked briefly about the disappointing season and how they needed to work hard to be ready for next year.

And it worked, since nobody in the building seemed to get any signals that Coughlin thought he might lose his job.

"I don't have that sense," said center Shaun O'Hara. "I know it seems like a lot of people outside of this building are really hoping for a change. But I don't know how you do that when you have a team that makes the playoffs in back to back years for the first time in a long time."

Those back-to-back playoff appearances - the Giants' first since 1989-90 - are just one of the factors that may save Coughlin's job. Another is the dearth of candidates available, unless the Giants think they can convince Bill Cowher to make a quick return to coaching or they are willing - and able - to buy Charlie Weis out of his Notre Dame deal.

And even though Coughlin presided over a season that running back Brandon Jacobs described as "a swing and a miss," the coach wasn't without his supporters in the locker room yesterday, even though he's never been the most popular man in the room.

"It is an accomplishment, having us go to the playoffs despite the circumstances we faced this year," said receiver David Tyree. "So I don't think he's done anything to get fired."

Tyree might be right, though at the moment, Mara, Tisch and possibly Coughlin are the only ones who know for sure.

Originally published on January 9, 2007

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